Province of Canada, Legislative Council, Scrapbook Debates [Opening of Parliament—Governor’s Speech], 8th Parl, 5th Sess, (8 June 1866)

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Date: 1866-06-08
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 5th Sess, 1866 at 1-2.
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (PDF).
Note: All endnotes come from our recent publication, Charles Dumais & Michael Scott (ed.), The Confederation Debates in the Province of Canada (CCF, 2022).

Click here to view the rest of the Province of Canada’s Confederation Debates for 1866.


Friday, June 8, 1866

Opening of Parliament

Governor’s Speech

His Excellency the Governor General [Viscount Monck]: Honourable Gentlemen of the Legislative Council, Gentlemen of the Legislative Assembly: I am happy again to avail myself of your advice in carrying on the government, and I trust that you will find in the magnificent buildings erected in the city chosen by Her Majesty as the seat of government, increased facilities for the despatch of public business, while they will prove adequate to the great future of this country.

Immediately after the termination of the last session of Parliament, I convened, by instructions from the Secretary of State for the Colonies [Right Hon. Edward Cardwell], a council of trade[1], including representatives from the different provinces of British North America. I have directed the proceedings of this body to be laid before you.

I shall direct to be laid before you the papers relating to the termination of the reciprocity treaty with the United States of America[2], and the negotiations on the subject of our commercial relations with that country.

It has become still more imperative to open, by an extension of the trade of the country with other nations, new markets for the varied products of our industry.

In consequence of the notice for the termination of the Reciprocity Treaty, I deemed it needful, with the assent and approbation of Her Majesty’s Government, to send a deputation, representing the colonies of British North America, during the winter, to the West Indies and Brazil[3], to ascertain the best means of developing and extending commercial relations with the countries. The period at which the delegation returned from their mission is so recent that no report could as yet have been presented, but as soon as received it will be communicated to you[4].

The threats and preparations for attack on Canada, constantly and openly made by a body organized in the United States of America, and known as “Fenians[5]” compelled me, since Parliament rose, by the advice of large portion of the volunteer militia force of the Province. The spirit displayed by the people, and their ready response to my proclamation have received the well merited approval of Her Majesty’s Government.

The events which have occurred within the last few days, afford additional proofs of the necessity for the precautionary measures adopted. The Province has been invaded by a lawless band of marauders, but I congratulate the country that they were promptly confronted, and within twenty-four hours compelled to make a precipitate retreat. I deplore the loss of life and the sufferings which have been entailed upon the gallant body of Canadian Volunteers in the engagement which took place in repelling so promptly the invaders who had attacked the country, and I feel assured that you will not omit to alleviate as far as may be in your power, the miseries so wantonly inflicted on many families. But while I grieve for their individual loss, I must congratulate the country that the first note of danger has shown that Canada possess in her volunteers, a body of men ready to peril their lives in defence of their Queen and country. The entire people have been thoroughly aroused by recent occurrences, and it must now be apparent to all that the whole resources of the country, both in men and means, will at any moment by cheerfully given in repelling any invasion of their homes.

In the measures of defence which I have been called upon to take, I have received the unremitting support of the Lieutenant-General commanding, and of Admiral Sir James Hope. It is also a source of unfeigned pleasure to me to acknowledge the gallant devotion displayed by the officers and men of Her Majesty’s military and naval forces in Canada.

I am happy to be able to state that the President of the United States [Andrew Johnson] has issued a proclamation[6] declaring that serious infractions of the laws of that country have been and are being committed by evil disposed persons within the territory and jurisdiction of the United States, against the British possession in North America, and requiring all officers of his Government to exert every effort for their repression. I trust that the course thus adopted will, ere long, prevent this country from being subjected to further attacks from the citizens of a nation on terms of amity with Great Britain.

The maintenance of the force on active duty, which the Government has been compelled to call out, has involved an expenditure to a large amount, which was not provided for by the votes of last session. The accounts of this expenditure will not be specially laid before you, and I feel confident that you will immediately pass a bill indemnifying the Government for this unavoidable departure from the provisions of the Audit Act.[7]

Recent occurrences show the necessity of extending to Lower Canada the Act cap. 98 of the Consolidated Statutes for Upper Canada[8], to protect the inhabitants of that section of the Province against lawless aggression from the subjects of foreign countries at peace with Her Majesty.

It has also been found necessary for the preservation of law and order to adopt a course similar to that take in the present session of the Imperial Parliament for the temporary suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.

I invite your immediate consideration of these necessary measures. I have fixed by proclamation the 1st day of August next as the time to which the civil code of Lower Canada, passed in the last session of Parliament, shall come into operation.

The code of civil procedure of Lower Canada, as reported by the commissioners, shall be submitted for your adoption during the Session.

Gentlemen of the Legislative AssemblyI have desired that the financial accounts for the current year and the estimates of expenditure for the next year shall be held before you.

I congratulate you upon the very satisfactory results of the commerce of the country during the past year. The revenue has been so largely in excess of the estimates as to enable me, without inconvenience to provide for the heavy and unexpected changes entailed upon the country.

Honourable gentlemen and gentlemen—The position which the great question of the union of the provinces of British North America has assumed is now such to induce the expectation that the measure will be shortly carried into effect. I therefore hope and believe that it will be found practicable during the present session to adopt such proceedings as may be necessary for completing the details of the scheme as regards this Province, and I venture to express the confident expectation that the next Parliament which will be held within these walls will not be confined to an assembly of the representatives of Canada but will embrace these of all the colonies of British North America.

I am happy to be able to congratulate you on the general prosperity which pervades all classes of the community in the Province, and I pray that your councils may be guided by Divine Providence to secure that which is the true end of all government, the moral and material advancement of the great body of the people.


[1]      The Confederate Council of the British North American Colonies was composed of the Governor General and one voting member from each colony (Upper and Lower Canada each getting one vote). The Canadian delegates included George Brown, George-Étienne Cartier, John A. Macdonald, and Alexander Galt although only one vote per colony was allowed—this ended up being Brown for Upper Canada and Cartier for Lower Canada. The other members were Ambrose Shea (Newfoundland), James Pope (P.E.I.), John Ritchie (Nova Scotia), and Robert Wilmot (New Brunswick). Seven unanimous resolutions were passed by the Council on Sept. 18, 1865. The Council then changed its membership and established trade connections with countries in the West Indies and Brazil.

[2]      Canadian-American Reciprocity Treaty of 1854 (Elgin-Marcy Treaty). The United States passed a Joint Resolution abrogating the treaty in Jan. 1865. It was formally terminated on Mar. 17, 1866.

[3]      The Confederate Council of Trade Commission to the West Indies, Mexico, and Brazil consisted of McDougall, Ryan, Delisle, and Dunscomb for Canada, Macdonald and Levesconte for Nova Scotia, Smith for New Brunswick, and Pope for P.E.I. Their findings were presented in “Report of the Commissioners from British North America Appointed to Enquire into the Trade of the West Indies, Mexico and Brazil,” [No. 43] Sessional Papers (1866).

[4]      ibid.

[5]      The Fenian movement gained strength in North America when British antipathy in the United-States were raised after American politicians blamed “unneutral” British interference during the civil war after it concluded and raids on the Irish Republican Brotherhood in Ireland in the Fall of 1865 angered American immigrated Irish. In America, membership in the Fenian movement swelled late-1865 and it aimed at invading British North American to encourage rebellion and free Ireland from English subjugation. While the movement itself did attempt actual invasions of British North America, these were inefficient and unorganized – compared to “a crowd of seedy theatrical extras, hired by the hour for some battle scene in a play or a film.” The Fenians are mentioned once in the “Confederation Debates” of 1865 by T. D’Arcy McGee on Feb. 9,. 1865 when quoting a passage from Archbishop Connolly’s letter in favor of confederation published in the Halifax Morning Chronicle on Jan. 13, 1865. There Archbishop Connolly wrote:“A cavalry raid or a visit from our Fenian friends on horseback, through the plains of Canada and the fertile valleys of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, may cost more in a single week than Confederation for the next fifty years; and if we are to believe you, where is the security even at the present moment against such a disaster?”

[6]      President Andrew Johnson, Proclamation (Jun. 6, 1866).

[7]      An Act to amend the law respecting the Public Accounts, and the Board of Audit (Province of Canada, 1864).

[8]      An Act to protect the Inhabitants of Upper Canada against lawless aggressions from Subjects of Foreign Countries at peace with Her Majesty (Upper Canada, 1859).


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